Rob van Trier wants to catch the light of Tilburg

| Sanne Leenders

He is a true Tilburger and international artist. Rob van Trier travels the world to realise his dreams. His art hangs on the walls of many big names and yet he always comes home to Tilburg. 'It is Tilburg's own. We love to come home. I prefer to come home with lots of luggage and art to show everyone that there is much more in this world. That's what I think you bring to your city. We all come home again'. 
Photo: Camiel Donders

Meet Rob van Trier. Born in Jerusalem in 1957. No, not in Israel, but the district at the beautiful Piushaven. Rob was raised in Tilburg, but also certainly formed. Because this is the city where he made his first work of art. Rob often moved within Tilburg. 'The Poststraat, Telefoonstraat and finally close to the Westermarkt. That's where I actually started.' He took his passion with him everywhere. 'I had wanted to paint for a long time. Of course I had drawn a lot already and, to my father's annoyance, I took dead animals home from the streets. Or I went to the market to get dead fish. I would then draw them. I really wanted to master it.'

A little boy with a dream
When his father gave Rob 10 guilders to get new shaving heads at the Vendex, Rob thought of himself only once. Those shaving heads were never bought, the first tubes of paint were. 'It was of course a postponement of execution when I came home and my father asked about the shaving heads. When I got home I quickly grabbed a few tubes, opened them and squeezed them out a little. Then at least I couldn't bring them back'. Once he made the big confession Rob had to go upstairs, but that was of course no punishment for him! 'I really started painting like crazy. Not on canvases, but just on old planks from containers.' 

'I do it myself. And that's how it came'
To realise this dream of an artist Rob went to study. Unfortunately, this did not go entirely as planned. 'I have actually had all the LTSs (Primary Technical Schools) in Tilburg. I was kicked off everywhere. During the lessons we got wood and steel working. You have to deal with sizes there. I never looked at sizes. I always had the creative process in my head. In the lathes I made images, I made all kinds of things. Eventually I graduated and I got a painters diploma as a house painter.' Rob wanted to start at the art academy. When that didn't work, he said to himself: 'I do it myself.'

The fairy tale that's called Rob's breakthrough 
With his very last money Rob left to the Provence. 'I felt that something was going to happen there. At home they said I was crazy. I was still married then, the first baby was coming and there was no money. I left for the South of France with a lot of hassle. My mother sponsored me by giving me tomato soup. I brought those cans, a spiritus burner and a tent of my sister that was full of holes. I started painting in the Provence. And where I already felt that something was going to happen, I met Americans from Texas. They wanted me to exhibit in Texas, Houston.' From there this great story slowly develops into a true fairy tale. 

Giorgio Armani, Ferrari and the Twin Towers
Rob's works received the attention they deserved. He exhibited in Houston at the Contemporary Arts Museum, Baton Rouge and New Orleans. In New York Rob exhibited in a bank building. Here his works were sold to the firm Fujitsu Siemens. They were on the 80th floor in the Twin Towers. 'I delivered them there. Unfortunately, all those works are now gone.' At the invitation of Tipton Golias Rob ended up in the Magnolia Rigde Plantation. There he sold no less than 45 copies! 'Then you suddenly have contacts with Tipton.' Through him Rob came into contact with Hotel Okura Amsterdam, among others. There his paintings were seen by Bernard Fuge from Paris. In Paris he came into contact with Giorgio Armani. 'My works hung next to those of Salvardor Dalí, yes they were in good company. Armani was followed by Mr. Ferrari'. These big names of course helped enormously with the success, but in the end the passion is what made Rob van Trier a well-known name. 'I really left everything behind to go all the way for it.' 

'It always starts with a dream. And so far I have managed to make my dream come true every time. Whether I haven't been able to exhibit in the Empire State Building, but I have been able to exhibit in a bank building in New York and that you still end up in the Twin Towers.'


The power and the brushstroke 
Now, many years later, Rob still returns to our city. That he now works for the great of the greats does not change anything about him at all. 'I just met Mr. Armani and then get back on the train with my bread bin and thermoflask. For me, everyone is equal, really.' He always stayed the same, is almost what you would say. A man with a big heart, full of passion for the profession. An example for Rob is Vincent van Gogh. 'If you look closely, he couldn't paint, but he taught it himself. I think it's so cool if you don't give up! That you try everything to master it.' How would he describe his style? 'The power and the brushstroke is what people often notice. I paint very diverse. Birds, women and shapes.' These are subjects that often recur in his paintings. But, you will never see Rob working at set times or days. He always paints spontaneously. 

Walking painting
Rob van Trier's outfit resembles a walking painting. It is full of paint in all kinds of colours and that is certainly not without reason. Rob finds it important to maintain direct contact with the canvas. 'I never distance myself from the canvas. I always want to stay in conversation with my brush and with the canvas. So I want to clean my brush as soon as possible and get on with it again. I'm not going to eat a nice sandwich in between. I'll go on in one go.' His outfit has to suffer in this. That results in some nice pictures, like the one above.

Attention to De Pont museum!
You would think that an artist of this allure has certainly exhibited in De Pont museum in Tilburg. Unfortunately, nothing could be further from the truth. Rob tells: 'De Pont museum was once looking for international artists. I went there and offered myself as an international artist. De Pont museum didn't want to do this'. But Rob doesn't just let himself be taken off the field there. 'As long as I have fought to be where I am now, I will ever manage to exhibit in De Pont museum.'

Tilburgers are mauwers 
Even if something is done so perfectly, we still have something to mew. According to Rob, Tilburgers are art lovers, but first they want to look the mewing cat out of the tree. 'In Tilburg it often happens that they first go to another city and then want to get it to Tilburg. That doesn't work. I think it should have been born here and not in another place. A very small example of this is the future selfie plek on the Pieter Vreedeplein. That already happens in so many places. Here is not where it was born. It has no soul.'

'Tilburg is almost always used as a springboard. Vincent van Gogh had his very first drawing lessons here. The first drawings were made here. So we are the source. It all starts here and all of a sudden they find it in Amsterdam'. Rob regrets that. Yet Rob foresees a turnaround. It is Tilburg's own: 'we love to come home. Actually, we should give an exhibition about the fact that we come home.'

Are most dreams deception?​
At least not for Rob. 'They shouldn't take my dreams away from me.' Besides an exhibition in De Pont museum, the realisation of 'De Treve Tower' (The Trier Tower) is also high on Rob's to-do list. 'I want to capture the light of Tilburg.' The tower is a kind of coil. 'As a little man I had coils from my father, these were coils that were used in textiles. Coils for wire. Those coils had such a beautiful shape. There were also coils with holes in them. I found that earthy so cool! The light you can get into such a large tower seems fantastic to me.'

What 'The Treve Tower' will look like? 'Blinded mirrors, silver and gold, larger than a cathedral, each with a different incidence of light based on the position of the sun. In this way, certain births or dates can be highlighted. It gives you the feeling that there is so much more.' Finally, Rob adds: 'This comes from our own soil, that selfiespot is not.'


Unfiltered​ opinion of Tilburgers
Within this section we give creative Tilburgers a stage. A Ticket to... the expression of their unfiltered opinion about the city. Are you curious who also has something to say about Tilburg other than Rob van Trier? Then you should definitely read these interviews:

Chris Oomes: 'Black and white, lots of contrast, with a story or a wink'.